Inequality in America

April 3, 2014

This talk will investigate the problem of rising economic inequality in the United States and the various options for addressing it. The unique history of the U.S. has meant that the U.S. political discussion has historically been unconcerned with income inequality; however, rising inequality during the past three decades is attracting increased attention and concern. Growing economic inequality is also closely correlated with rising inequality in a variety of other social domains. This includes evidence of growing differences by economic status in education, housing, health, and marital/fertility choices. Many of the major causes of this rising inequality are not easily addressed in any direct way. In fact, some of these causes have produced other substantial benefits. Within the political economy of the U.S., there are only a limited number of areas where inequality can be addressed in ways that might garner widespread support, including efforts aimed at greater opportunity for low-income families in education, health care, and (perhaps) political participation. Other approaches, particularly those focused on changes in taxation or in job opportunities, are less politically feasible.

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